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UK to send more weapons to Ukraine; more than 9.5 million Ukrainians have fled

This was CNBC's live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine. Click here for the latest updates. 

Ukraine has once again made a plea to the U.S. for more air defense systems as it tries to prevent Russian forces from advancing in Donetsk, in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

In other news, the CIA Director William Burns appeared to pour cold water on widespread rumors that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be ill, saying there was no evidence backing up such speculation. He added that Putin was "entirely too healthy."

It comes amid questions over the scope of Russia's aims when it comes to its invasion of Ukraine — or its "special military operation," as it describes it — given recent comments by Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Speaking to Russian state media, Lavrov said the delivery of Western weapons to Ukraine changed the dial on the geography of its "operation," and that its aims could now extend beyond the territory of the Donbas, in eastern Ukraine.

Russia deliberately weaponized food in Ukraine, State Department says

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech in front of the monument "Fatherland, Valor, Honor" near the headquarters of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation (SVR), in Moscow, Russia June 30, 2022.
Aleksey Nikolskyi | Kremlin| Sputnik | via Reuters

The State Department slammed Russian attacks on Ukrainian agricultural facilities and a months-long blockade on foodstuff exports.

For months, Russian warships have blocked Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

"To date, Russia has weaponized food during this conflict. They have destroyed agricultural facilities they prevented millions of tons of Ukrainian grain from getting to those who need it," State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a daily press briefing.

"It is a reflection of Russia's disregard for lives and livelihoods not only in the region but well beyond that," he added.

Price's comments come on the heels of an announcement that the United Nations, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine will soon sign an agreement that will usher in a sea corridor for Ukrainian grain exports.

"We should never have been in this position in the first place. This was a deliberate decision on the part of the Russian Federation to weaponize food," Price said.

— Amanda Macias

Ukraine's first lady meets with HP representatives and accepts computers for students

Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska arrives to give an address to members of the United States Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 20, 2022.
Michael Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska met with representatives from HP and the Global Business Coalition for Education this week to accept a donation of computers for children, students and healthcare providers in Ukraine.

"We are very grateful for HP's and the Global Business Coalition for Education's support," Zelenska wrote in a statement about the $30 million HP initiative. "Their efforts and contribution will help students in Ukraine and beyond continue learning and prepare for the future, like any other youth in the world," she added.

Enrique Lores, CEO of HP, said that the Palo Alto-based company would continue to mobilize tech resources for Ukraine.

"Through our partnership with the Global Business Coalition for Education, we will put personal computers in the hands of students and families who have been displaced from their homes and classrooms," Lores wrote in a statement.

 — Amanda Macias

Celebrity chef and humanitarian Jose Andres says Russians bombed warehouse storing food and supplies

Spanish celebrity chef and restaurateur Jose Andres shared a video via Twitter of what he says was a Russian attack on humanitarian warehouses storing food and supplies for Ukrainians in need.

"This are warehouses for feeding children, elderly, women! Are humanitarian warehouses! I know because I've been there. Our teams know them," wrote Andres, referencing warehouses used by the World Central Kitchen, his humanitarian organization dedicated to feeding vulnerable communities.

The two-star Michelin chef brought the World Central Kitchen to Ukraine in order to address the mounting food crisis triggered by Russia's war.

— Amanda Macias

Belgium ratifies Sweden and Finland NATO bids

Belgium announced that it has finalized Sweden and Finland's NATO bids.

"It is official! Belgium has completed the ratification procedure for the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO," wrote Hadja Lahbib, Belgium's minister of Foreign Affairs, in a tweet.

"Our country respects its international commitments to ensure our #security, defend our #freedom and #democracy," she added.

All 30 NATO members must approve a country's bid for it to be accepted into the alliance.

Both Finland and Sweden already meet many of the requirements to be NATO members. Some of the requirements include having a functioning democratic political system, a willingness to provide economic transparency and the ability to make military contributions to alliance missions.

In May, both nations began the formal process of applying to the military alliance.

— Amanda Macias

More than 9.5 million people have fled across Ukraine's borders, UN says

A Ukrainian boy walks past temporary beds at a refugee center in Warsaw on April 19.
Sopa Images | Lightrocket | Getty Images

More than 9.5 million people have fled across Ukraine's borders since Russia invaded its neighbor in late February, the UN Refugee Agency estimates.

Of those, 5.9 million people have been recorded as refugees from Ukraine and have settled somewhere in Europe. Another 3.7 million refugees from Ukraine have registered for temporary protection or similar national protection schemes in Europe, according to data collected by the UN Refugee Agency.

"The escalation of the international armed conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance," the agency wrote.

"Millions of refugees from Ukraine have crossed borders into neighboring countries and many more have been forced to move inside the country," the agency added.

— Amanda Macias

UK to send more artillery, guns, drones and anti-tank weapons to Ukraine

The British government will supply scores of artillery, guns, drones and anti-tank weapons to Ukraine in the coming weeks, the UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said in an update to Parliament.

"The scale and range of equipment we are providing demonstrates the strength of our resolve. Together with our international partners, we will ensure Ukraine has the tools to defend their country from Putin's illegal invasion," Wallace said.

The additional weapons come as British troops provide military training to Ukrainian forces on U.K. territory.

— Amanda Macias

Volunteer cooks on the front lines near Kherson

Valodya, a 49-year-old man, volunteers as a cook for Ukrainian soldiers in Kherson. Many Ukrainian citizens, who volunteered on the front lines of the war, temporarily put their professions aside to support their country in various positions as official members of the army. 

Valodya, a 49-year-old man, volunteers as a cook for Ukrainian soldiers in Kherson, Kherson Oblast, Ukraine on July 15, 2022. 
Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
KHERSON, UKRAINE - JULY 15: Valodya, a 49-year-old man, volunteers as a cook for Ukrainian soldiers in Kherson, Kherson Oblast, Ukraine on July 15, 2022. Many Ukrainian citizens, who volunteered on the frontlines of the war, temporarily put their profession aside to support their country in various positions as official members of the army. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Valodya, a 49-year-old man, volunteers as a cook for Ukrainian soldiers in Kherson, Kherson Oblast, Ukraine on July 15, 2022. Many Ukrainian citizens, who volunteered on the frontlines of the war, temporarily put their profession aside to support their country in various positions as official members of the army. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

— Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Death toll rises to 26 in Vinnytsia following Russian cruise missile attack

Ukrainian servicemen lay flowers and toys at a place where 4-years-old girl Liza was killed by a Russian cruise missile strike. Vinnytsia, Ukraine July 15, 2022.
Maxym Marusenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images

The head of the regional military administration in Vinnytsia said that one more person has died following the cruise missile attack in the central Ukrainian city.

"20-year-old Olga Lysenko died in the hospital with 98% of her body burns," according to an update provided by Serhiy Borzov.

He added that the death toll from the July 14 attack is now 26 people.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has previously described the cruise missile attack on the community facilities and medical center as an "act of Russian terror."

— Amanda Macias

'Not a single square meter of land left untouched by the Russian artillery' in Luhansk, says Ukrainian official

An aerial view of damaged sites from eastern Ukraine city of Severodonetsk located in which Russian forces now in control, in Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine on July 09, 2022.
Stringer | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The head of the regional military in Luhansk said that there is "probably not a single square meter of land left untouched by the Russian artillery" in the eastern Ukrainian region.

"The Russian army uses its usual tactics of massive artillery shelling and air strikes, uses of all available types of weapons to advance," according to an update from Serhiy Haidai.

"Over the past 24 hours the Russian army tried to arrange several assault attempts from different directions of the occupied territories," he added.

Earlier this week, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the White House that the U.S. has intelligence that indicates Russian forces will soon try to annex part of Ukraine, namely Luhansk.

— Amanda Macias

Russian army shells Bakhmut Market in the Donetsk region

Emergency crews respond at Bakhmut Market, in the Donetsk Oblast, after it was shelled by the Russian army.

A man inspect the damage at the entrance of the Bakhmut Market it was shelled by the Russian army, in the city of Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine on July 21, 2022.
Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Ukrainian firefighters work at the Bakhmut market after it was shelled by the Russian army, in the city of Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine on July 21, 2022.
Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Ukrainian firefighters inspect a crater at Bakhmut Market after it was shelled by the Russian army, in the city of Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine on July 21, 2022.
Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Locals clean the entrance to their shop at the Bakhmut market after it was shelled by the Russian army, in the city of Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine on July 21, 2022.
Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

— Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russians cause panic after moving 'weapons, explosives' into Europe's largest nuclear power plant

A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Energodar on May 1, 2022. Europe's largest nuclear power station has become a fighting ground for the conflict, with both sides blaming each other for attacks on and around the complex.
Andrey Borodulin | Afp | Getty Images

Russian forces have moved military equipment, explosives and weapons to the engine room of power unit No.1 at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant creating the risk of a nuclear disaster on par with the Chernobyl disaster, according to Ukraine's nuclear power plant operator Energoatom.

Energoatom said in a Telegram post on Thursday that the Russian military had "brought at least 14 pieces of heavy military equipment with ammunition, weapons and explosives to the engine room of power unit No. 1 at the Zaporizhia NPP."

"The entire arsenal of heavy equipment with all ammunition is currently located very close to the equipment that ensures the operation of the turbo generator. In particular, in the immediate vicinity of the main oil tank, which contains flammable oil that cools the steam turbine. There is also explosive hydrogen, which is used to cool the generator," the post said.

Russian military vehicles drive through the gates of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022. This picture was taken during a media trip organised by the Russian army.
Andrey Borodulin | AFP | Getty Images

Energoatom said the military equipment had prevented the access of specialized fire engines and other vehicles to the control room of power unit No. 1 and that there was the potential for a catastrophic accident.

"Therefore, the risk of fire increases many times, and its extinguishing becomes extremely problematic. If a fire occurs, for example, due to the accidental detonation of ammunition, then its scale can be equal to the one that occurred during the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant," the post said.

Energoatom added that Russian forces "continue to violate all norms and requirements regarding fire, nuclear and radiation safety at nuclear power plants, keeping heavy military equipment, ammunition, weapons and explosives in the engine room of the power unit of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe."

Russian forces seized the nuclear power plant — which is also among the largest in the world — that's located in southeastern Ukraine, back in March.

It said there was an urgent need to liberate the Zaporizhzhia NPP as soon as possible and appealed to the international community for help "because only Ukraine will be able to guarantee the smooth and safe operation" of the nuclear power plant.

Energoatom published an announcement yesterday, Wednesday, saying that the Russian military had demanded that the engine rooms at the 1st, 2nd and 3rd power units at the plant were opened in order to place their entire military arsenal there."

Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine could 'disappear from the world map,' top Russian official says

Ukraine could disappear from the map "as a result of unfolding events," the Deputy Chairman of Russia's Security Council Dmitry Medvedev wrote on his Telegram channel on Thursday.

"After the 2014 coup, Ukraine lost its state independence and fell under direct control of the collective West as well as began to believe that NATO would guarantee its security," he noted as he blamed the West for the fallout from the Ukrainian war, such as energy shortages and high food prices.

"As a result of all the current events Ukraine may lose what's left of its state sovereignty and disappear from the world map," Medvedev added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Russian Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev are seen at a meeting with the government, following Putin's address to the Federal Assembly, in Moscow, Russia on January 15, 2020.
Anadolu Agency

The comments from Medvedev, a close ally and colleague of President Putin, are the latest in a series of bellicose, aggressive posts from the former Russian president and prime minister.

Medvedev also asserted that "Ukrainian criminals will definitely be prosecuted for atrocities committed against the people of Ukraine and Russia."

Russian officials insist that Russia is not responsible for numerous war crimes in Ukraine which are being investigated as the conflict continues. Russia has also said it does not target civilians despite multiple instances of civilian infrastructure, like schools, shops and hospitals, being hit by missile strikes.

— Holly Ellyatt

Reports that Putin is ill are 'nothing but fakes,' Kremlin says

Russian President Vladimir Putin touches his tie during the Powerful Ideas For New Times Forum on July 20, 2022 in Moscow, Russia. Putin takes part in the economic forum, hosted by the Agency for Strategic Initiatives (ASI).
Getty Images

The Kremlin has insisted that Russian President Vladimir Putin is in good health, rebuffing rumors that he is unwell.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday that reports Putin is ill are "nothing but fakes," Reuters reported.

The comments come after CIA Director William Burns told the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday that there was no evidence that Putin was unwell, despite months of rumors speculating that the Russian leader might have been receiving cancer treatment.

"There are lots of rumors about President Putin's health and as far as we can tell, he's entirely too healthy," he said, although he added that was "not a formal intelligence judgment."

— Holly Ellyatt

Russian forces 'closing in' on Ukraine's second-largest power plant

Russian and separatist forces continue to attempt small scale assaults along the Donbas front line with the invading forces likely closing in on Ukraine's second biggest power plant at Vuhlehirska, 50 kilometers (31 miles) north-east of the city of Donetsk, according to the latest intelligence update by the U.K.'s Ministry of Defence.

"Russia is prioritising the capture of critical national infrastructure, such as power plants," it said on Twitter Thursday.

"However, it is probably also attempting to break through at Vuhlehirska, as part of its efforts to regain momentum on the southern pincer of its advance towards the key cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk," the ministry said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Kharkiv city comes under Russian shelling, with dead and injured reported

Russian forces are shelling Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, with residents being asked not to go outside.

Oleh Syniehubov, the head of the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration, said in a Telegram post Thursday that "Russians are shelling Kharkiv. Attention residents: stay in shelters, do not go outside without an urgent need, do not ignore air raid alerts."

He said 19 people had been injured in the shelling, including a child, and that four were in a serious condition. Two civilians had died in the shelling, Syniehubov said.

Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov also urged people to stay in safe places, Ukraine's state news agency reported, adding that Terekhov said that one of the city's most densely populated districts is under fire.

Policemen inspect the debris of a bus stand following a shelling attack that killed three while two more were people in the Saltivka neighborhood in Kharkiv City on July 20th, 2022.
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Four civilians were killed during shelling of the city on Wednesday and 11 injured. An attack on a bus stop in the city killed three people, including a 13 year old boy.

Holly Ellyatt

CIA director says Putin is wrong on Western resolve in Ukraine

CIA Director William Burns in Washington, DC on October 27, 2021. Vladimir Putin's view that Western resolve in Ukraine will gradually weaken is wrong, said CIA Director William Burns at the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images

CIA Director William Burns said Russian President Vladimir Putin's view that Western resolve in Ukraine will gradually weaken is wrong.

"Putin's view of Americans is we always suffer from attention deficit disorder and, you know, we'll get distracted by something else," Burns said at the Aspen Security Forum. "I think my own strong view is that Putin was wrong in his assumptions about breaking the alliance and breaking Ukrainian will before the war began. And I think he is just as wrong now."

He emphasized that America's attention will not be diverted elsewhere despite Russia's "grinding war of attrition."

Burns said U.S. intelligence estimates Russia has suffered "something in the vicinity of 15,000 killed and maybe three times that wounded." While the Ukrainians have likely seen slightly less in terms of losses, he said they were still "significant."

Natalie Tham

Ukraine calls for more air defense systems as forces desperately hold the line

Ukrainian soldiers ride a tank on a road in the Donetsk region on July 20, 2022, near the front line between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
Anatolii Stepanov | AFP | Getty Images

Kyiv has called for more air defense systems as its forces fight on in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Fighting is concentrated around the cities of Kramatorsk, Sloviansk and Bakhmut, and Ukrainian forces are desperate to hold the line to prevent Russian advances in Donetsk.

The latest update Thursday morning from the general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said those cities and the settlements around them continued to be attacked by Russian artillery. Separately, Kharkiv to the north and Mykolaiv to the south are also coming under attack, with powerful explosions rocking the port city of Mykolaiv during the night.

"In [the] Donetsk region, the invaders are seeking to advance to the Debaltseve-Sloviansk highway, while Ukraine's forces are holding them back," the armed forces said in its update.

In the meantime, Ukraine has repeated its call for more air defense systems to it fend off Russian aircraft and missile attacks. First Lady Olena Zelenska, who has been in Washington this week, repeated those calls to America Wednesday when she addressed the U.S. Congress. As she spoke, a presentation showed graphic images of Ukrainian children killed by Russian missile strikes and shelling.

"I'm asking for air defense systems in order for rockets not to kill," Zelenska said before a backdrop of graphic and disturbing images from devastated Ukrainian streets.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy watched in Kyiv the live broadcast of the speech by First Lady Olena Zelenska in the US Congress, which took place as part of her visit to the United States of America, July 20, 2002.
Source: The Office of the President of Ukraine

Back home, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated those calls for more air defense systems.

"I'm sure you've seen how effective the weapons provided by the partners are, especially modern MLRS. The name HIMARS has become almost native to our people - just like Javelin or NLAW, like "Stugna" or "Neptune" earlier," he noted in his nightly address.

"It is obvious that the next equally important name will appear from modern air defense systems, which we are requesting from partners. The representatives of our state did not stop working for a single day to obtain an effective air defense system."

While Ukrainian forces had experienced some success in destroying Russian missiles
"a completely different speed and scale of protection is required," Zelenskyy said.

-- Holly Ellyatt

No evidence Putin is in ill health or unstable, CIA chief says

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a Night Hockey League ice hockey match on October 7, 2015 in Sochi, Russia. Putin spent his 63rd birthday playing hockey with NHL stars.
Sasha Mordovets | Getty Images

There has been speculation for months that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be suffering from poor physical or mental health, including unsubstantiated rumors that he may have undergone cancer treatment.

The claims have been denied by the Kremlin, and CIA Director William Burns also appeared to pour cold water on those rumors on Wednesday, telling the Aspen Security Forum that the CIA is aware of no evidence that Putin is debilitated mentally or physically.

"There are lots of rumors about President Putin's health and as far as we can tell, he's entirely too healthy," he said, although he added that was "not a formal intelligence judgment."

Followers of Russian geopolitics keep a close eye on Putin's public appearances for signs of ill health and for insight into his rationale for invading neighboring Ukraine.

In truth, however, Putin has given clues about his intentions when it comes to Ukraine for years, frequently deploring the collapse of the Soviet union, extolling the unity of Russians and Ukrainians and dismissing the notion of Ukraine as an independent territory.

Holly Ellyatt

Zelenskyy watched wife's speech to U.S. Congress from Kyiv

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy watched in Kyiv the live broadcast of the speech by First Lady Olena Zelenska in the US Congress, which took place as part of her visit to the United States of America, July 20, 2002.
Source: The Office of the President of Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy watched from Kyiv as his wife delivered remarks to the U.S. Congress.

Olena Zelenska, the first wife of a foreign leader to speak in the U.S. Capitol, urged lawmakers to provide more U.S.-made arms to Ukraine.

Zelenska began her 15-minute address with a photo presentation of Ukrainian children killed by Russian missile strikes and shelling across the country.

"I'm asking for air defense systems in order for rockets not to kill," Zelenska said before a backdrop of graphic and disturbing images from devastated Ukrainian streets.

"The First Lady noted the contribution of every American family, Congress, and President Joseph Biden to Ukraine's ability to resist the enemy and protect the lives of millions of Ukrainian citizens," according to a statement from Zelenskyy's office.

— Amanda Macias

Donbas region is 'not lost yet' to the Russians as Ukraine puts up stiff resistance, Pentagon says

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley (R) participate in a news briefing at the Pentagon May 23, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia.
Alex Wong | Getty Images

The Pentagon said Wednesday that Ukraine has not yet lost the Donbas to Russia after weeks of intense fighting.

"It's very intense," U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon. "A lot of violence, tens of thousands of artillery rounds every 24-hour period and lots of casualties on both sides, lots of destruction of villages," he added.

Milley said that Russia has only advanced about 10 miles in the past three months.

"It's not lost yet. Ukrainians are making the Russians pay for every inch of territory that they gain," he added.

— Amanda Macias

Ukraine graft concerns resurface as Russia war goes on

A screen shot showing the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky during his televised address where he said that if the Russian threat to shipping in the Black Sea can be removed, this will alleviate the severity of the global food crisis.
Igor Golovniov | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's dismissal of senior officials is casting an inconvenient light on an issue that the Biden administration has largely ignored since the outbreak of war with Russia: Ukraine's history of rampant corruption and shaky governance.

As it presses ahead with providing tens of billions of dollars in military, economic and direct financial support aid to Ukraine and encourages its allies to do the same, the Biden administration is now once again grappling with longstanding worries about Ukraine's suitability as a recipient of massive infusions of American aid.

Those issues, which date back decades and were not an insignificant part of former President Donald Trump's first impeachment, had been largely pushed to the back burner in the immediate run-up to Russia's invasion and during the first months of the conflict as the U.S. and its partners rallied to Ukraine's defense.

But Zelenskyy's weekend firings of his top prosecutor, intelligence chief and other senior officials have resurfaced those concerns and may have inadvertently given fresh attention to allegations of high-level corruption in Kyiv made by one outspoken U.S. lawmaker.

It's a delicate issue for the Biden administration. With billions in aid flowing to Ukraine, the White House continues to make the case for supporting Zelenskyy's government to an American public increasingly focused on domestic issues like high gas prices and inflation. High-profile supporters of Ukraine in both parties also want to avoid a backlash that could make it more difficult to pass future aid packages.

— Associated Press

Russia's objectives in Ukraine could go beyond the Donbas, Russia's foreign minister warns

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference as he meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Turkey June 8, 2022. 
Umit Bektas | Reuters

If Ukraine receives long-range weapons from Western countries, Moscow could expand the geography and scope of its "special military operation," Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday.

Speaking to Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Russia's English-language news service RT, Lavrov said that Moscow's aims in Ukraine were still the same as President Vladimir Putin had announced at the start of Russia's invasion — or "special military operation" as it calls the invasion — but he suggested it could expand.

"The President said very clearly, as you quoted him - denazification, demilitarization in the sense that there are no threats to our security, military threats from the territory of Ukraine, this task remains," the minister said, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

President Putin initially claimed — falsely — that Moscow's mission in Ukraine was to "denazify" the government in Kyiv, a claim widely rebuffed by the international community, but then Russia changed tack, saying its main objective was to "liberate" the Donbas, where two pro-Russian, self-proclaimed "republics" — known as the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR) — are located.

Lavrov said that if the West kept pumping Ukraine with arms, like the U.S.-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), then "that means the geographical tasks will extend still further from the current line," in Donbas, referencing Russian-occupied Kherson in the south, and Zaporizhzhia, both of which lie beyond the Donbas territory in eastern Ukraine.

"Now the geography is different. This is far from being only the DPR and LPR, it is also the Kherson region, the Zaporizhzhia region and a number of other territories, and this process continues, and continues consistently and persistently," Lavrov said.

"We cannot allow the part of Ukraine that Zelenskyy will control or whoever replaces him to have weapons that will pose a direct threat to our territory and the territory of those republics that have declared their independence, those who want their future decide for yourself," he concluded.

Holly Ellyatt

Read CNBC's previous live coverage here:

War in Ukraine could now expand beyond Donbas, Russia warns; EU says it’s being blackmailed by Moscow over gas